AP: House members want to restrict airport searches

2/16/2013

TOPEKA (AP) — Some Kansas House members want to restrict how federal security agents frisk airline passengers at the state’s airports, saying the pat-downs are often humiliating or conducted on people who pose no danger.

TOPEKA (AP) — Some Kansas House members want to restrict how federal security agents frisk airline passengers at the state’s airports, saying the pat-downs are often humiliating or conducted on people who pose no danger.

The bill, sponsored by 21 House, members would make it illegal for Transportation Security Administration screeners to touch an airline passenger’s private areas during a search.

It also would bar the agents from taking a child under the age of 18 away from a parent or guardian to conduct a search, The Kansas City Star reported Friday.  “Air travelers are subjected to aggressive, humiliating pat-downs, many of which would land the average stranger off the street in jail,” said Rep. Brett Hildabrand, R-Shawnee. “But because the federal government has given someone a blue uniform and a badge, we are told that person has authority over our bodies and we must endure.”

Between 100 and 110 TSA officers are stationed at seven Kansas airports.

The TSA said in a blog post that the U.S. Constitution bars states from regulating actions of the federal government and one aviation security expert agreed.

Some Kansas lawmakers also are unimpressed with the bill. “I think it’s a waste of our time,” said Rep. Louis Ruiz, D-Kansas City. “We have law enforcement officers at every level that may abuse their powers. Are we going to make laws for all of them, too?”

The bill is partly in response to an incident at Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport last year in which a woman complained about how screeners treated her 4-year-old daughter.

Michelle Brademeyer said security officers demanded her daughter undergo a pat-down after she initially cleared security because the girl ran to hug her grandmother, who had set off the alarm and was waiting for a pat-down. A security officer yelled at the girl, who cried, and her mother wasn’t allowed to comfort the child, she said.

TSA officials said its officers followed proper procedure and conducted a “modified” pat-down of the child.

Some Kansas lawmakers said the searches create only an illusion of security.

“The theater they put us through to get on a plane is absolutely ridiculous,” said Rep. J.R. Claeys, R-Salina, one of the bill’s sponsors.

But Winn said the screening processes must be working because no terrorist has brought down a plane since Sept. 11.

“I think we’ve been very blessed,” he said. “The processes in place are working.”

After the bill was heard by a legislative committee this week, the committee chairman, Republican Rep. Arlen Siegfreid of Olathe, said it needed to be changed to apply only to the TSA, not to other law enforcement agencies.

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